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Hospitals fail to properly investigate stillb -

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PETER CAVE: New research has found that many parents of stillborn babies aren't being given
adequate explanations as to why their child died.

Around 2,000 babies are stillborn in Australia every year.

But research, funded by the Stillbirth Foundation of Australia, shows that some hospitals are
failing to investigate the deaths and they're leaving many parents in the dark.

Lindy Kerin reports.

LINDY KERIN: It's a pregnant woman's worst fear. Six babies are stillborn in Australia every day.

And despite improvements in heath care, the rate of stillbirth hasn't really changed over the past
10 years.

Dr Adrienne Gordon is a neonatologist at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.

She says around 30 per cent of all stillbirths are unexplained, which she says can have a massive
impact on grieving parents.

ADRIENNE GORDON: The whole situation for any family is really devastating, but if they don't know
why, it can make it much harder to deal with, because they also, it's difficult for their
clinicians, or their obstetrician to counsel them about risk for future pregnancies as well if they
don't know why it happened.

LINDY KERIN: Dr Adrienne Gordon says if hospitals follow the right procedures, the number of
unexplained cases could be reduced.

She carried out an audit of stillborn cases at the RPA hospital between November 2005 and March
2008, and found 34 per cent were unexplained.

But after the implementation of guidelines by the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand,
that figure dropped to 13 per cent.

ADRIENNE GORDON: There are a comprehensive set of guidelines that deal with all areas of perinatal
death, so stillbirths and babies that die in the first 28 days of life. And they have chapters
about classification of death and investigations about autopsy, about psychological support for the

And it's very comprehensive and they're widely available; but the implementation of them hasn't
been as widespread.

LINDY KERIN: Why is that?

ADRIENNE GORDON: Mainly because that involves a lot of educational effort to hospitals, and the
Australian and New Zealand Stillbirth Alliance are now trying to roll that out to each state and
territory. And so we're hoping that in the next few years these will actually begin to be
implemented in hospitals.

LINDY KERIN: Emma McLeod is the founder of the Stillbirth Foundation Australia.

Almost seven years ago, her daughter Olivia was stillborn. It was unexplained and uninvestigated.

Emma McLeod says if the guidelines had been followed, she would have had some answers.

EMMA MCLEOD: Oh, it would have removed, I think, a lot of my guilt that I carry. It would have
helped me in subsequent pregnancies, because I did go on and have two more babies, which were very
stressful pregnancies, and many women do go on and have subsequent babies.

And if there is no reason known, and no idea why my beautiful healthy baby died, then we don't have
something to look at, and to monitor in those subsequent pregnancies.

Emma McLeod has welcomed the latest research and is now calling for the guidelines to implemented
in hospitals around the country.

EMMA MCLEOD: And through that, we will be able to collect better data, we will be able to
understand what's happening in many, many stillbirths that we haven't understood in the past.

And then the Stillbirths Foundation Australia will be able to better spend our money and set very
clear research guidelines and priorities so that then we can work at reducing the numbers of these
deaths and saving babies' lives.

PETER CAVE: Emma McLeod from Stillbirth Foundation Australia, ending Lindy Kerin's report.